How to use Google Drive on Android, iOS


Editors’ Note: This article was originally published April 24, 2012, and has been updated to reflect the numerous updates, changes and additions to Google Drive since then.

Since its launch in early 2012, the Google Drive app has seen many changes. When it originally launched it replaced the Google Docs app, didn’t allow you to actually edit documents on iOS, but allowed for creating and editing Google Docs files within the Android app. Now it better serves as a hub for accessing the various types of files you store within Google Drive.

The basics

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The main screen of Google Drive provides a few options for navigating your files. You will have quick access to files in your Drive, any documents that have been shared with you, any files or folders you have starred, recently opened or edited as well as any files you have downloaded for offline access.

When you first launch the app, you’ll find a list of your folders and files stored in Google Drive. The default thumbnail view (pictured on the left above) can be changed to a list view (middle) by tapping on the list icon in the top menu bar.

Naturally, tapping on an item will open it. Tapping on the “i” icon, however, will open the details screen (pictured right) for the respective file or folder. On this screen you can view who has access, when changes were made, who made them and other important details. Additionally, you will find options for sharing, moving, deleting, renaming, starring (for quick access) and for files the option to download it to your device for offline access.

Creating, editing

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Google Drive app for Android was recently updated with the Material Design language, complete with a floating “New” button and fun animations. Tapping on the circular, red button will bring up a prompt. The options for creating a new document include uploading a file from your device, scanning a document, creating a folder and lastly, creating a Docs, Sheets or Slides document. The iOS app is sure to receive the same design treatment, but in the mean time you can tap on the “+” in the upper-right hand corner to create a new document.

The last three options require the respective app to be installed on your device. Be sure to install Docs (Android | iOS), Sheets (Android | iOS) and Slides (Android | iOS) on your device. Should you try to create a document without the accompanying app installed, Google Drive will prompt you to install it before continuing.

Viewing documents without the above apps installed is still possible, though your editing options will be limited.

When selecting upload, you are able to browse and upload any type of file to your Drive account directly from your device. It’s important to note — on Android installing a file manager, such as Astro File Manager, is required to browse all files stored on your device. By default you can access images, videos, audio, and downloads. iOS users are restricted to videos and images only.

Keep in mind if you want to place the new item in a specific folder, you will need to navigate to that folder in the app before you upload or create it. Otherwise the new file uploaded item will be placed in the root directory of your Google Drive account.

Menu and settings

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Slide out the menu from the left side of the screen, where you can then switch accounts or view files that are shared with you (categorized as “Incoming”), recently accessed, starred or downloaded, as well as those you’ve uploaded from your device.

Scrolling down the menu’s list on an Android, you’ll find an option to view the apps settings along with the current amount of Drive space you’re using with each account. Within the settings for the Google Drive app, you can set the amount of data you will want the app to cache, topping out at 250MB. You can also enable or disable encryption of offline documents as well as set your device to only upload or update files over Wi-Fi in an effort to help save your mobile data plan.

iOS users will need to tap on the Settings icon, located next to the username at the top of the menu. There you can find storage allotments, and the option to set a security code to grant access to the app. Lacking in iOS is the ability to cache items or restrict uploads to Wi-Fi only.


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